The History Of Prodigy
Pre-Prodigy: Liam Howlett started his musical career as a DJ in a group called Cut To Kill in 1987, but (as far as we know) he worked on only one of their singles, titled Listen to the Basstone. He left the band when they signed a contract that excluded him, and, influenced by house music (later rave) arriving from overseas, became a DJ in Essex. Soon (in the club The Barn) he met Leeroy Thornhill, the two-meter tall James Brown-fan dancer, and ”freelance” traveler Keith Flint, who were the members of the same rave crowd. Then they asked for a tape of Liams DJing and after hearing some of his own tunes, they asked to dance to his music, if he played live. A friend, Ziggy organized a live appearance at a venue called Labyrinth in 1990. The dancers (Keith, Leeroy, and a friend of Keiths, Sharky) and Liam were ready for the gig, but Liam also wanted an MC friends recommended Maxim Reality (Keith ”Keeti” Palmer), who joined them as an MC to better the live shows. The first live Prodigy performance was held in front of 250 people. After the first gig, more followed and the five formed The Prodigy (yes, originally there were 5 members)
The first singles: Their first release, What Evil Lurks (with four tracks) sold seven thousand copies (peaking at #31 in the Dance Chart note that after this Sharky left the band) and started them on a way of massive hits over the following years (after that, they had tons of live performances in various clubs). Their next single was Charly (which Liam hoped wouldnt enter the Top 40), ”featuring” a sample from a BBC Public Information Film (intended for kids), and became a club anthem, and an incredible hit (going #3 in the UK Single Chart, and #1 in the UK Dance Chart) also causing much controversy, with newspapers claiming the track ”killed rave”.
The live shows: Being ravers, it was obvious for the Prodigy to have live shows. In fact, at the beginning, it was the live shows that the whole Prodigy music was based on their live shows becoming the most popular among youth, because of their style and energy. Liam even said he respected a big rave more than a chart single.
The following months: After the success of Charly, the they released 3 more singles before the first album: Everybody In The Place (which went #2, being kept off the top spot by the re-release of Bohemian Rhapsody), Fire and Out Of Space (which was their first international hit, conquering the airwaves of many European countries). Liam also made several remixes (for Dream Frequency and Art Of Noise), and turned down Take That when they asked him to remix one of their songs.
The first album: in November 1992, the Prodigy released their first full-length album: Experience. Its unique style and freshness made it a hit but promotion tours (with Paul Oakenfold and Moby) were complete failures, and the band ended up with huge debts.
Number one album: This was the time for change: the anonymously released track, One Love was kind of different, leaving behind most of the breakbeats, and opening up another style when Liam saw that the single had become successful, they revealed that it was a Prodigy track. With this they showed they wanted a change, and they could change (also, it was the first Prodigy video that MTV played a lot). Having released No Good (Start The Dance), Liam started working on a new album. It took him a lot of struggle to write all the tracks, especially because he had so many influences. Then Music For The Jilted Generation, the second album came out becoming smack a number one hit (remaining for 4 months in the UK Top 20) and selling more than a million copies. After this, they started intense gigging, playing to a very wide audience in more than 20 countries. The following two singles (Voodoo People and Poison) continued their success.
Prodigy Live: After the phenomenal success of Jilted, they embarked on a long tour around the world (all over America, Australia and Europe). They even played at the memorable Tribal Gathering festival (one of the biggest UK dance festivals), and Glastonbury 95, where Oasis fans listening to the live performance of Oasis were literally rushing to the Prodigy stage, to hear their superior performance. Of course, one of the most important results of this tour is Keiths transformation. He dyed his hair, and he was well on his way to becoming one of the most diverse live performers in the world.
Firestarter: The next milestone in their history was the release of Firestarter in March 1996 that was a smash hit never before seen in the bands career (despite Liams expectations, who didnt think it would be accepted so well). It was a #1 hit in half a dozen European countries, including the UK, of course (where it sold half a million copies). Plus, the video of the track (while causing much controversy) caught the attention of the world.
Breathe: Firestarter was followed by an even bigger success, Breathe, quickly selling 700,000 copies all over the world. Now it was obvious that the Prodigy were changing again, which eventualy led to their ”commercialized” style that so many people hyped and so many cursed. However, their music (and lyrics) had become much more rebellious: the next single, Smack My Bitch Up, is a good example of this, whose video has been banned on several TV stations.
7 million copies: Their 3rd full-length album, The Fat Of The Land, released in the middle of 1997, was an international success, going straight #1 in 22 countries, including the US, and becoming a double-platinum album (it sold more than 7 million copies worldwide).
Dirtchamber: The first commercially released Prodigy material since Smack My Bitch Up, the Liam Howlett mix album Dirtchamber Sessions Volume 1 is yet another excellent work despite that it wasnt that successful as the previous albums.
1998-1999: Having evolved into one of the greatest live bands in Europe (and maybe in the world), and having released many astounding records, they spent most of these two years relaxing and spending some time on their own. They had some gigs together, but the most important developments were the Liams live DJ performances, Maxims solo single titled My Web and Leeroys remix of Dr. Doooms Leave Me Alone.
The Future: A new Prodigy single and Maxims solo album are promised to be released in 2000, but the dates are uncertain. A new Prodigy album is expected in 2001, but that release isnt certain, either.
The 1980/90s Dance Culture
(Excerpt from the book Exit The Underground)
In 1988, it took Britain a matter of months to succumb to Acid House. In retrospect, it is easy to understand why. For several years, American musicians had been experimenting with new forms of music such as Rap and Hip-Hop. In comparison, British bands seemed soft and safe. Their obsession with making money dictated that they be both easy on the ear and the eye in order to appeal to audiences across the board. Like punk in the late 1970s, Acid House became a badge of identity for a small selection of British youth. Through drugs, clubs, clothes, haircuts and its very own vocabulary, House created a sub-culture that not only served as newfound common ground, but also alienated, even offended outsiders.
Unlike punk, however, House survived its honeymoon period. The reason was simply that the music itself progressed to accommodate the changing, increasingly sophisticated tastes of its audience. In fact, today cutting-edge dance music with its rock, Dub, Hip-Hop and heavy metal influences bares scant resemblance to its melodic House origins.
Dozens of DJs, artists and record labels can claim to have played their part in the evolution of 1990s dance culture. Only one band, however, has stayed ahead of each new trend. Since forming in the rave days of 1990, Essex-based The Prodigy have mixed up musical styles, absorbed myriad influences and experimented with new technology in order to keep dance music on the move. More than any other artist, they have proved that dance acts can compete with conventional rock bands both in terms of album sales and live shows.
What was actually Acid House on a massive scale, raves took off in the UK at the end of the 1980s. Huge illegal warehouse parties and outdoor gatherings attracting tens of thousands of people turned a rapidly growing number of the countrys youth on to a new form of music played entirely by machines. Acid House was a relentless, minimalist, manic offshoot of the House and Techno scenes that had developed in the North American cities of Chicago and Detroit. With a name thought to have originated from the group Phutures Acid Track single of 1987, Acid House was characterised by hypnotic rhythms, offbeat soundscapes and weird sample. To intensify the musics mind-altering frequencies, the melodies central to American House were omitted. Acid was more extreme, almost alien. The beats were impossibly fast far too fast ever to be recreated by real musicians and the sounds were certainly not human.
The explosion in awareness, production and consumption of the chemical MDMA ie the recreational drug Ecstasy that that happened at the same time as Acid House was no coincidence. The incessant, repetitive beat of the man-made music helped Ecstasy users to maintain both their energy levels and a trance-like state in which they coul